Keeping it real
By Cheryl EmbletonFlexible working arrangements, something we all dreamt of, with days at home spent drifting from garden to keyboard and balancing organisational calls however, what we didn’t factor in was a family in lockdown.
Many of us are now having to adjust to a new way of doing things and are discovering that working from home, with children around, brings a whole new set of pressures and responsibilities. A carefully choreographed day has become, in reality, a nightmare of noisy kids clamouring for your attention and suddenly you need to balance the demands of your employer with those of your family.
How do you cope when the two distinct worlds of parenting and work collide? To some extent, this will depend on the age of your children and whether you are sharing the load with a partner.
Here here are some ideas to relieve the potential stress.
Flexible working hours
It may sound daunting, but it will make life easier if you are able to extend your working hours beyond the usual 9 to 5. This could involve starting at 7.30am or finishing at 7.30pm, but it would free up some time during the day to devote to your kids. Just make sure you let work colleagues know when you’re taking a break and also make sure to timetable some time for yourself at the end of this long day.
You can’t hope to gauge your new daily life on a school timetable, but kids like structure; make sure they know what to expect. Plenty of breaks and things to look forward to and they are more likely to go along with your plan.
Break down their day into manageable chunks, adapt depending on their age. No young student can be expected to focus on the same grammar workbook for an hour or long periods of time on school work. Avoid boredom by interspersing outdoor activities, art projects, online chats with friends and even TV time.
Plan, plan, plan …
It’s not easy to think of activities when you’re feeling stressed or trying to meet a work deadline, so make a list of ideas and resources and share them with other parents. There are plenty of social media post with ideas for children, try something new. No one is expecting you to replicate the role of a teacher, so be creative in your definition of education.
Outdoor play time
Technology may be the greatest way of occupying your children, but it’s important to balance this with other things; time away from a screen, being active and, if possible, in the fresh air.
If you have a garden, provide balls, skipping ropes, hoops or beanbags. There’s no need for expensive equipment. Chalk out grids for hopscotch or noughts and crosses, set up a row of water-filled plastic bottles for skittles or make an adventure course with things in the garden.
If you have don’t have an outdoor space, find time to go for a walk, a run or a cycle ride. Set a daily challenge, chart progress and reward achievement. It doesn’t matter whether you are walking around the block or through a wood, any open space will help clear everyone’s mind.
Share the responsibilities
Approach this as a team; show them that you are facing challenges together as a family. Ask for help around the house with vacuuming, washing up or cleaning the car. You may be surprised that they actually want to help when these things sound more like a shared activity than a chore.
Most importantly, do not expect too much of yourself or your children: you cannot do the impossible. Managing a work-life balance has never been harder and the stress of overload can lead to feelings of failure. Trying to fulfil the role of parent, teacher and worker without ever leaving the home is a lot to ask, even without the anxieties surrounding a global pandemic. There is nothing wrong in resorting to an afternoon of Disney movies and a load of junk food.
Your sanity depends on sometimes giving yourself and your kids a break.